This Training Center article is written by the editors of SNEWS®:
Hydraulic exercise systems aren’t new. In fact, they were introduced back in the early days of the modern fitness industry in the ’70s as an inexpensive alternative to the then very expensive equipment being marketed for testing and rehab. Back then, the systems were mainly sold to medical and athletic markets such as sport teams, hospitals and labs. It wasn’t until the express workout chain Curves took the world by storm in the ’90s with its hydraulic equipment that the system gained a second life and immense popularity. More light commercial and commercial markets are now taking a serious look and even home users can find some benefit. Why? They are safe and self-adjusting. Your customers should also consider the benefits.
How hydraulic exercise systems work
The system is based on a fixed speed of movement instead of a fixed resistance, as is the case with free weights or selectorized equipment. The resistance is variable, meaning during a part of the curl, crunch or press where you are stronger or the angle makes moving the weight easier, the
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machine automatically increases the resistance; a user maintains the same speed but has to work harder to do it.
In contrast, using fixed resistance weights where a user chooses the pounds to lift, the speed will change during phases where the movement is easier or more difficult. The exerciser must basically guess how much weight is correct for his or her needs and the number or repetitions desired. Guessing can be ineffective (if people don’t get it right, they won’t get the desired results) or unsafe (choose too much and they could hurt themselves).
Without the need to guess at the weight needed with hydraulic systems, the user instead picks a speed by adjusting a dial. The machine then maintains that speed during the movement, adjusting the resistance against which he or she pushes or pulls. For example, a fast speed (lower number on the dial) will help with power and flexibility, while a slower speed (higher dial number) will do more toning and shaping as well as fat-burning.
Benefits of hydraulic resistance
Using hydraulic equipment can benefit all exercisers, but it’s important to tell your customers that it will help more with a goal of toning and shaping than with muscle-building. Therefore, it provides a great solution for overall wellness and health.
For the very reason that express workout clubs are turning to hydraulic systems, regular clubs too as well as home users should also consider it. The system helps users with time constraints simply get on the machines and start their conditioning program without fiddling around with plates, stacks and pins.
In talking about the equipment, emphasize its benefits, including:
- Achievement of overall health and wellness.
- Ease of use because of self-adjustment of resistance.
- Effectiveness since it adjusts resistance to a user’s needs and abilities.
- Safety from its lack of plates and pins that can pinch toes, fingers, kids and pets.
- Lack of danger because users never suddenly find they chose too much weight.
- Smooth movements with no extra stress to joints and muscles.
- Little or no muscle soreness since there is no “eccentric” loading. That’s the negative or the return movement of an exercise, for example, lowering the bicep curl bar against gravity.
- Its ability to exercise opposing muscle groups with one movement, for example, both biceps and triceps or both hamstrings and quadriceps since you have resistance in both directions.
- Space-saving since one piece can actually target at least two muscle groups.
- Lack of intimidation since a user doesn’t have to heave around plates and bars and doesn’t have to guess about the right amount of weight.
A good point to emphasis is how hydraulic resistance machines were developed for the medical and rehabilitation markets and have since expanded into general fitness because of proven success.
Who is the hydraulic system user?
Although hydraulic machines have definite applications for muscle-building, the primary market for this type of equipment never was and never will be the body-building market. That means your main customer will be moderate exercisers, baby boomers and seniors.
With those users in mind, talk about overall health and wellness through quality of life and improved energy. Goals of the main hydraulic equipment users will include:
- General strengthening
- Body shaping
- Muscle toning
- Weight loss
- Increased range of motion and flexibility
Selling and demonstrating the system
Hydraulic resistance is not just a different kind of weight-lifting, and it’s important to make that clear to your customers. It is in fact the complete opposite. That means the customer must experience it because it’s difficult for people to understand what fixed-speed exercise feels like.
When you are ready to demonstrate the equipment, follow these steps:
- Have the customer get in the machine. Set the speed to 1, and ask him or her to do a couple of repetitions.
- Set the speed to 3 and ask for another couple of repetitions. The person is likely at this point to tell you that you made it harder.
- Now set the speed to 5 and ask for another couple of repetitions. This time the person will probably note how much tougher you made it.
- Finally, set the speed to 6 and ask for another couple of repetitions. Now, the person will tell you how really tough the last set was.
When the demonstration is over, explain what you led them through, reinforcing the concept of fixed speed and how the machine adjusted the resistance for their ability. Remind the person that a speed of 1 forced them to move very fast to engage the resistance, while a speed of 6 meant he or she had to use more muscle although in reality it was just slower. This demonstration allows the user to experience how speeds of 1 or 2 are great for range-of-motion exercises for beginners and seniors or for training power athletes and how speeds of 3 or 4 are designed for muscle toning.
Interesting to point out is that even when it was difficult, he or she was still likely able to extend the joint and exercise full range of motion because the resistance automatically accommodates for fatigue. When using regular weights, an exerciser gets tired and often only does half-movements.
To top off the demo, do the following so the user can feel the differences in feel between an exercise on a hydraulic piece and one using weights:
1. Have the person get on a traditional weight machine or give them a dumbbell.
2. Instruct them in an exercise that replicates the movement he or she just did on the hydraulic piece. (A good choice is a shoulder press.)
For the right person and goals, hydraulic resistance can mean quick, safe, effective workouts with lasting benefits.